What is Data Roaming on iPhone: Everything you Need to Know!


As you go through the Settings app on your iPhone, have you seen the word “Cellular“? And also why “Data Roaming” and “Cellular Data” options are turned on? Are you still in shock at the roaming charges from your previous phone bills? If so, believe us when we tell you that you’re not alone. It seems that very few people really understand what ‘roaming’ means for today’s iPhone’s and we could all use some updated information. So let’s dive in and find out what Data Roaming means on your iPhone and how Cellular Data works; we’ll also offer some helpful advice to ensure you don’t get overcharged for data.

What is Cellular Data On iPhone? Should be On or Off?

When you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, Cellular Data connects your iPhone to the Internet. Your iPhone won’t be able to access the Internet when you’re out and about if Cellular Data hasn’t been turned on.

To locate Cellular Data on your iPhone, go to Settings – Cellular – Cellular Data. You’ll notice a switch to the right of Cellular Data: this allows you to turn Cellular Data on and off. Cellular Data is turned ‘On’ when the switch is green. Cellular Data is turned ‘Off’ when the switch is gray.

When Cellular Data Is Turned ‘On’ you’ll notice LTE in the upper left-hand corner of your iPhone when Cellular Data is turned on. In case you’re wondering, LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. Unless you’re using Wi-Fi, LTE is the fastest data connection available. All you’ll see in the upper left-hand corner of your iPhone when Cellular Data is turned off are the signal strength bars.

In our opinion, it’s a good idea for almost everyone to leave Cellular Data turned On. Most people are very busy, and when they’re out and about they expect to have easy access to social networks, their email, and the Internet. If Cellular Data was turned Off, then none of these would be accessible unless you were on Wi-Fi.

Of course it’s okay to turn Cellular Data off if you’re at home and don’t need the Internet, or you have a minuscule data plan. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi and Cellular Data is turned off, you’ll only be able to use your iPhone for sending text messages and making phone calls – this does not include iMessages, which require data. Interestingly, almost everything we use our iPhone’s for today uses data!

Enabling LTE

So, let’s take a closer look at LTE. As previously mentioned, LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution and, today, when it comes to wireless data technology, LTE is the latest and greatest. In fact, in certain cases LTE can be faster than your Wi-Fi at home. If you want to check to see if your phone is using LTE, simply go to Settings – Cellular – Enable LTE.

  1. The ‘Off’ Setting – turns LTE off, forcing your phone to use a lower data connection – like 3G or 4G. You may want to turn LTE off if you’re on a small data plan and you’re trying to avoid excessive data charges;
  2. Data and Voice – as we mentioned previously, today’s iPhone’s require a data connection for most of what we do. Even our phone calls can use LTE to ensure that our voice sounds crystal-clear;
  3. Enabling Data Only – when you enable Data Only, it means you’re enabling LTE for your iPhone’s connection to the Internet, your email, and other apps; however, LTE is not enabled for voice calls. You’ll only enable Data Only if you’re experiencing difficulty making phone calls with LTE.

Is Your Data Plan Being Used for LTE Voice Calls?

The answer to this question is, surprisingly, no!. At this point in time, AT&T and Verizon are the only wireless carriers using LTE for phone calls, and neither count LTE voice as part of your data plan. We have heard that, in the very near future, T-Mobile will be adding voice over LTE (known as VoLTE) to its line-up.

Advanced Calling and HD Voice

Advanced Calling from Verizon and HD Voice from AT&T are just different names for what iPhone calls Voice LTE. The obvious difference between regular cellular phone calls and LTE Voice is quite staggering, and you’ll be instantly aware the first time you hear it.

Verizon’s Advanced Calling and AT&T’s HD Voice, which are both LTE Voice, are both so new that they haven’t yet been deployed nationwide. It’s also important to note that both callers must have new phones supporting voice calls over LTE for LTE Voice to work. If you’re interested in learning more about AT&T’s HD Voice and Verizon’s Advanced Calling, why not check out their websites?

Data Roaming on iPhone

Most iPhone users cringe when they hear the term ‘roaming’. Let’s face it, paying your phone bill shouldn’t require a second mortgage on your home!

When your iPhone is on ‘roaming’ it means that it will connect to towers that are not owned and/or operated by your wireless carrier (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and so on). If you want to access Data Roaming on your iPhone, simply go to Settings – Cellular – Data Roaming.
And, as before, when the switch is green data roaming is turned on, and when the switch is grey data roaming is turned off.

If you’re anywhere in the United States you don’t need to worry, because data roaming will have no effect on your phone bill. Of course this was not always the case, but fortunately the wireless providers agreed a few years ago to permanently do away with roaming charges. For many people this decision was a huge relief.

Please take note here, because this is very important! When you’re traveling abroad, roaming charges can be extremely high. Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon charge exorbitant fees if you use their data whilst traveling overseas. You should also keep in mind that your iPhone is constantly using data even when you’re not using it, for things like updating your Facebook feed, checking your email, and many other things.

So, our advice to you if you’re traveling abroad and really want to be safe, is to turn off Cellular Data entirely. When you’re on Wi-Fi you’ll still be able to check your mail, sent photos, and so on, but you won’t have the shock of a massive phone bill when you arrive home.